Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

< Columns

Our Rancid Media Again


Watching Q&A this morning I started to worry about the future of this country. Where to begin? Excitable journalists who seem to think that yesterday's disposal of Judith Collins is a game changer in the election campaign; far too many commentators on the panel, most of them enthusiastic lefties and naive academics; no one with any practical experience of politics or any historical framework against which to measure the current storm in a teacup; and, seemingly a determination by the channel itself to debate emails and who said or leaked what to whom three years ago.... "Oh mighty Caesar! Dost thou lie so low? Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils, shrunk to this little measure?" Is this TV1 at its very best these days? Unable to rise above the muck, unable to sort fact from fiction, unable to focus on significant issues for the public it is meant to be serving? Is TV1 going to depend on stolen emails that are being peddled for pecuniary gain by Nicky Hager and his accomplices from now until election day? Have journalists no moral fibre? Is anyone capable of picking up the shattered remnants of a once proud medium and turning TV1 back into a station worthy of watching?

A good TV station would close off this irrelevance with a quick summary of Hager's past record at trying to influence election campaigns with stolen material, note how his current book is made up from a very careful, tendentious selection of stolen goods that he wove together with the intention of crucifying Judith Collins, and hopefully burying John Key alongside her. All this is so obvious that it seems puerile for me to have to state it. But our excitable journalists find Nicky manna from heaven. They ask a question, and before it is answered, ask another, and before it is answered talk all over the top of the person being quizzed.

Corin Dann finally managed to edge around the gossip to a key issue that faces electors when he questioned Labour's David Parker about financial policy. What might Labour's coalition partners make of Labour's promises and assurances if they end up in government together? But for some reason, having grabbed the nettle, Dann dropped it quickly. With Labour having fallen more than 10% in the polls over the last twelve months and the Greens having fluctuated around 10%, the smaller party is likely to demand cabinet seats and critical portfolios in any left-wing coalition. That can only mean an extraordinary amount of policy horse trading. It isn't good enough for Dann to accept simple assurances from Parker. A journalist with some political experience and knowledge, Dann should have pursued his question. Since the parliamentary votes of Internet Mana would also be necessary to pass a budget, Parker's assurances were vapid.

If I were in charge of TV1 I'd be summoning a meeting with key figures tonight or tomorrow morning to talk about how over the next three weeks news should be handled in the interests of the wider viewing public who pay for these programmes. First, mop journalistic fevered brows and calm their over-excitement and hyperbole, virtually none of it justified by the Hager evidence so far. Secondly, restore some sort of moral compass to TV1 by disposing of the careful selection of Hager's basket of stolen goods. Third, identify the key policy issues that need analysis in the time that remains before election day. Remember, journalists and academics are well paid. Their jobs are comfortable and pretty secure. The election outcome might not mean much to them. But many electors who they purport to be worried about, aren't so cushioned. It matters to the wider public which party is most likely to deliver the sort of growth that will lift everyone's living standards. The reality is, not one person in ten thinks that anything to do with Nicky Hager can improve their lives! They want tangible, realistic assurances. In other words, it's time for our media to get real, and to give this election back to the New Zealand public.